Creative YOUCreativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not. We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring. But we want more. Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries. It all starts with education. If all young people have access to creative subjects in school, then talented young people from all backgrounds can pursue their passion, develop crucial skills needed in so many industries and improve their wellbeing. 1. 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Download our Creative YOU report Exploring oppression, identity and freedom of expression with LGBT+ young people Working with LGBT+ young people from Creative Youth Network to create art over the last few months has been brought me both joy and sorrow. Oppression is still definitely present in young people's lives and that brings with it difficult emotions. On the other hand, there is hope within the art and the ‘Tonne of Feathers’ project for change towards a better world. "Proud to Be" are groups of LGBT+ young people who meet weekly and share a safe space in South and North of Bristol. Sessions are run by youth workers from Creative Youth Network, who offer a safe and supportive space for the LGBT+ community. These spaces are so important to the young people, it is one of few spaces in the young peoples lives where they feel safe and free to express themselves. I've been working with these groups to capture feelings and share through visual art the illuminating conversations we've had together. I've been using acrylic paint and ink on canvas, alongside collage to do so. The essence of spaces for young people: unpredictability I didn’t know what to expect when I started attending the sessions - and during the later ones, I still could never predict the direction things may go in. This was both exciting and sometimes stressful, demanding me to need to think on the spot and put down any session plans I worked on. As sessions went on, I became more comfortable with allowing for the natural evolution of things. It became a good reminder to not put too much pressure on things and thus things became more enjoyable and conversations flowed naturally. After a couple of weeks I would have a few small plans or ideas but I would usually just see how the young people were feeling and let them take the reigns too. When I started off the project I envisioned the young people would physically contribute to the making of the work during the sessions, but as the sessions unfolded I realised the final artwork will be inspired by the conversations and the things I take from the sessions. I would leave with ‘material’ through things they shared with me during the evening, and from this I would try to paint the essence gathered from them onto the canvas. In this sense, the art that took place in the sessions became something that was absent of pressure, a sort of transient catalyst for conversations. Interests in art and engagement surrounding the project varied throughout the group. Some of the young people are artists themselves but many others were not interested in art and they would come to the youth sessions to hang out and get away from school life where there is a lot of pressure within the creative subjects. Sharing in freedom, a space with no expectations I gave them the space to chat and paint or doodle without forcing it or telling anyone they needed to have a finished product. Activities such as mask making became an aid for conversations centred around oppression, identity and freedom of expression. The moments that arose while we made things were special and intimate. The young people opened up to me about emotional and personal things at points. Art became an aid or speaking, creating a buffer and allowing for the young people to feel more relaxed. Alongside these moments I was also able to observe their conversations amongst each other and learn about their lives and interests as well as the challenges they face. Themes: identity, expression and authority The conversations within our sessions have been diverse; flowing through different topics. The main ones we frequently returned to were those central to identity and expression; gender, names, authority figures, freedom and the school system. School has been a large topic during the youth sessions, and for the young people they are trying to explore their identities at a time in their lives where conformity is the rule. It was evident that the young people have so much emotion inside of them through their experiences, especially relating to authoritative figures (such as parents and teachers). These experiences include situations of feeling misunderstood and unsupported, manifesting through people refusing to use their preferred pronouns or names and not creating a safe environment. Our names are forcibly assigned to us at birth, but many people in the youth sessions don’t resonate with their birth names because it doesn’t reflect their identity. To make them feel heard I asked the young people to paint the name that they identify with so I could join it onto the canvas of the final paintings. What is important to LGBT+ young people? Words that have come from people in the sessions include ones such as: ‘accepting’ ‘peaceful’ ‘free’ ‘loving’ Fluidity has also been an important word during my time with the young people. It resonates with them in ways such as gender fluidity or representing freedom and flowing like water, free to move, free to express. Not having to be ‘fixed’, or ‘stuck’. I interpreted these conversations and words into my work by creating a large piece that aims to evoke the image and motion of sails and a sense of movement overall. The young people are carrying the ship forward, they become the wind in the sails. I am truly inspired by the generation I’ve been working with, and believe that the young people of this world are going to inspire the change we wish to see. The artwork as a whole is bittersweet, and although melancholy is there at times, there is hope within the art too, and in the ‘Tonne of Feathers’ project, for movement towards a better world. Find out more about Miranda's work: Instagram | Website How can we help?